Friday, June 17, 2011

The Art of the Review: Conclude Smartly

Well, now that you have the confidence to write and put your opinion out there in the vasts of internetdom, what next?  You’ve added flavor and style in describing your positive and negative opinions on your deepest thought provoking desires- books, movies, television, jazz.  It’s all started off so smart, but how does it all end?  Don’t panic! 

Recommend your Audience

After you’ve made your case for the story, characters, cast, music, visuals, graphics, and pointed out the mistakes or any negativity- now is the time to conclude your thesis. Say who the intended audience of the product is or what group of viewers or listeners might not like the material.  If you’ve been particularly touched by this material, do share those lofty concepts and artful abstracts.  Was the obligation of the product to inform, inspire, and entertain? Did it succeed in what it set out to do?  Not only was your film or book achieved, but now you also need to make your final persuasive argument. If your thesis has been to comment on the good of the product, sum up and recommend the product in a sentence or two.  If you’ve found the material nothing but bad, reiterate your standing.  In conclusion, you can also list links or references for purchase or in support of your claims.   So many websites simply splice samples from other material with a sentence or two of opinion or offer for a reader's thoughts in the comment box.  Stand out by making a claim on your material and sticking to it.  If you have a blog or your review site has an option for reader comments, you will get spam or an obligatory drive by insult.  It happens, you cannot let fear of internet rudeness ruin your artistic analysis.  For every negative comment you receive, there are great thanks, appreciation, and discussions that will follow.  The reward for your insights far outweighs any poo poo spammers.

Look at this lovely comment posted on my length multi part critique of Fish Tank:

Mrs. Villarosa said...
Just wanted to say that I really appreciated your review. It's really in-depth and it made me want to watch this movie. I was going to skip it (the whole banging mom's new boyfriend thing creeped me out too much) but now it seems really interesting. Kudos!

On the Craft Itself

See? Don’t be overwhelmed!  I know I’ve been a bit technical and fancy in some spots and perhaps obvious on other points.  Give it a try, and you’ll know when to be technical and when to say what needs to be said.  Start with something you really like and feel comfortable expressing your thoughts about. Like a trunk novel, nothing says anyone has to see your first attempts.  If you are part of a fandom or have a critique group of friends with which you feel comfortable sharing, go for it!  Your concluding thoughts and words of wisdom are everything you’ve said in a nutshell.  In fact, you can take all the principles here and apply them in lengthy reviews and thesis or in short, insightful paragraph mini reviews.  For a capsule comment, all you need is your introductory theme, your detail sentence, the good, the bad, the ugly, and the conclusion.  If you feel uncomfortable with a larger article, try a few shorthand critiques instead.  If you are building a review blog or want to post on a social area or product website, write several and gather a portfolio.  Nothing says you have a time limit on any of your thoughts.  Yes, timely reviews are nice.  However, it’s better to be true to your writing and opinions and write something of quality than rush on something haphazardly, write poorly, and regret your presentation.  You can develop a voice and style in the art of reviewing that expresses your opinion and provides positive information for others. 

 In the old days, you would print that manuscript and mail it off on blind faith.  Create your own faith in yourself here.  Formatting or fancy web interfaces can be fixed, don’t let any technicalities hold you back! Don’t think you will be read and judged harshly if something is imperfect or let that deter you from writing.  This is your opinion on the internet- everyone has an opinion online and no one is perfect in the real world or on the web. People may disagree, but that’s okay.  Writing critiques like this helps your fictional writing.  If nothing else, it is damn fine writing practice on who, what, when, where, and why. It doesn’t have to feel like a chore, job, or obligation-but if taken seriously and done right, it can be very rewarding and a lot of fun.   By following your intuitions and these basic rules on how to approach reviewing your material of choice, you might be surprised with the insightful and intelligent report you’ll create. Now get writing!



Wendy said...

What is your view on giving a synopsis of the story before commenting on the story itself.
As a reader, I don't like reading a synopsis especially when some of the important points are given away.
As a writer, I can cope with genuine criticism of my work in general, but I dread a reviewer revealing my 'secrets' before the reader is 'wowed' by them. I saw this happen to a fellow author, recently, and it flawed me. I am so scared of reviewers now.

How honest is it safe to be. If a new writer gets a horrendous review it might stop them writing altogether. That would be tragic.

It does seem easier to be forthright with a movie than with a book, though.

Kristin Battestella said...

Hi Wendy!

I think giving a synopsis or summary of some kind is important in any review. It doesn't have to be given as the first thing, however. It can be placed anywhere in the critique.

Spoilers are a pain in the butt! If I am giving a review that I know is going to be super spoilerly in the details, I just say so and warn folks who do not wish to see away.

I'm not a fan of book reviews online that reveal all, either. Sometimes, I feel someone is just trying to prove that they did read the book and have little else to offer.

A review is just one review. A negative review of one's work should never deter anyone from continued writing!